Scientific Classification:

Kingdom Plantae
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Magnoliopsida
Order Rosales
Family Rosaceae
Genus Crataegus
Species C. monogyna
Binomial name Crataegus monogyna

Other Common Names:

The other common names for the hawthorn tree are English Hawthorn, Haw, May, May Blossom, Maybush, May Tree, Quick-set, Shan-cha and Whitethorn.


The name hawthorn is thought to mean 'hedge thorn' - hag or haw being the Old English for hedge or enclosure and miles of hedges (usually planted with hawthorn) have made a significant impact on the English landscape. Hedged fields have become one of the symbols of the English countryside. Hawthorn is a common name for plants in two related genera in the subfamily Melodies of the family Rosaceae.Crataegus is a large genus of in the family Rosaceae, native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere in Europe, Asia and North America. The number of species in the genus depends on taxonomic interpretation, with numerous apomictic microspecies; some botanists recognise a thousand or more species, while others reduce the number to 200 or fewer.

The name hawthorn was originally applied to the species native to northern Europe, especially the Common Hawthorn C. monogyna, formally known as C. oxyacantha [from the Greek kratos, meaning hardness (of the wood), oxcus (sharp), and akantha (a thorn)], the commoner of the two species presently distributed throughout Britain and Ireland. Hawthorn is often known as 'May' because it traditionally flowered during that month and the blossom is used in May day decorations. However, it has recently been observed to flower much earlier in the year, in late March and early April but still reaches its zenith during the early May.


The bark is greyish to brown in colour with regular fissures that reveal an orange layer below. The 3 to 5-lobed shiny leaves are roughly oval in shape. Thus the leaves themselves have lobed or serrate margins and are somewhat variable shape and often deeply cut.

The flowers, which occur in groups of 9-18, are white, often with a pinkish blush, and provide a cheering display in the landscape that marks the cusp between spring and summer. The flowers have a faint scent of rotting meat; this allows pollination of the flowers by flies rather than the bees which are not active in early spring, its blooming time. New shoots and leaves are reddish. The thorns grow from branches, and are typically 1-3 cm.long.By September, the pollinated flowers become 1cm wide, deep red fruits known as haws. These can contain up to five seeds at their centre.


The hawthorn is native to North Africa, as well as Western Asia and most of Europe. The common hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, is native to Britain and found everywhere with the exception of the far north of Scotland.


A very versatile tree, doing particularly well in most soil types, excepting very wet soils and equally copes with all sites with the exception of dense shade. Hawthorn grows in hedgerows, scrub, thickets and woodlands in a range of habitats; it seems to favour calcareous soils, open habitats, heaths and rocky areas.


Seeds are sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame, some of the seed will germinate in the spring, though most will probably take another year. Stored seed can be very slow and erratic to germinate, it should be warm stratified for 3 months at 15°c and then cold stratified for another 3 months at 4°c.It may still take another 18 months to germinate. Scarifying the seed before stratifying it might reduce this time. Fermenting the seed for a few days in its own pulp may also speed up the germination process. Another possibility is to harvest the seed 'green' and sow it immediately in a cold frame. If timed well, it can germinate in the spring. If you are only growing small quantities of plants, it is best to pot up the seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on in individual pots for their first year, planting them out in late spring into nursery beds or their final positions. When growing larger quantities, it might be best to sow them directly outdoors in a seedbed, but with protection from mice and other seed-eating creatures. Grow them on in the seedbed until large enough to plant out, but undercut the roots if they are to be left undisturbed for more than two years.

Flowering Season

Its white flowers appear from May onwards with the characteristic red berries (Haws) providing feed for birds in autumn and early winter.

Pests and Diseases

Aphids on small trees can be partially controlled with strong sprays of water from a garden hose. Borer attacks may be prevented if the trees are kept in good vigour with regular fertilization. Leaf miners symptoms are brown blotches on the leaves. Lace bugs can be a serious, though occasional, problem. The insect feeding on the undersides of the leaves causes chlorotic flecks on the upper leaf surfaces. The lower sides of the leaves are covered with small, brown, sticky flecks. The pear slug skeletonizes Hawthorn leaves and these sawfly larvae have a slimy appearance. A few insects can be washed off with a garden hose. Tent caterpillar nests can be pruned out while still small.

Sprays of Bacillus thuringiensis may be used. Do not burn nests while the nests are in the tree. The injury from the fire may exceed that caused by the insects. Scales may be controlled with horticultural oil sprays. Spider mites are so small they can cause much foliage discoloration before being detected. Fire blight can be severe in some parts of the country. The first noticeable symptom of fire blight is the browning of branch tips. The tips appear to be burned or scorched and the dead, brown leaves droop but hang on the tree. Cankers form and the bacteria are washed farther down the branch by rain. The bacteria, Erwinia amylovora, are spread from diseased to healthy twigs by rain, bees, and other mechanical means. There is no satisfactory chemical control.

The disease is less of a problem if trees are not located near apple or pear orchards. Prune out blighted branch tips by cutting a foot or two beyond the diseased wood. Over-fertilizing with nitrogen fertilizer may increase tree susceptibility to fire blight. Leaf blight attacks most Hawthorns but especially English Hawthorn. The symptoms are small reddish brown spots on the leaves which may run together. Infected leaves drop in August and severely infected trees may be completely bare. Cedar Hawthorn rust causes orange or rust colored spots on the leaves leading to early defoliation. The fruits and twigs are also attacked. Juniper is an alternate host. Cedar-quince rust attacks fruits. Washington, Lavelle and Cockspur Hawthorn are resistant to rust diseases. Scab causes leaf spotting and defoliation. The fruit have black raised spots on them. Powdery mildew causes a white powdery growth on the leaves.

Parts Used


The flowering tops and the berries are the most commonly used parts of the tree for its commercial and medicinal purposes.

Medicinal Applications


• The herb also has an effective and remedial effect in angina cases; the hawthorn based remedies can help open the coronary arteries in the heart and by so doing aid in the improvement of blood flow to the heart.

• It is used in the treatment of problems such as diarrhea and dysentery.

• It is used as a gargle for sore throats.

• Hawthorn herbal remedies also have an effective relaxing effect on the functioning of the nervous system thus aiding in relieving excessive stress and anxiety.

• The bark is astringent and has been used in the treatment of malaria and other fevers.

• It is also used in the treatment of high blood pressure.

• It aids in relieving fluid retention in the body and helps dissolve deposits of kidney stones and gravel.

• The herb is helpful to women in menopause, as it aids in removing debility or night sweats and used as an herbal douche for women affected by excessive vaginal discharges.

Commercial Applications


• Hawthorn berries are still used to make jelly and wine.

• The flowers are used in syrups and sweet puddings.

• It contains saponins and hence it is used in the soap industry.

• The fruit can be dried, ground, mixed with flour and used for making bread etc.

• The wood is used in the fuel industry.

• Hawthorn is used in salads.

• It is used as a substitute in China tea.


According to the astro reports the hawthorn tree is under the dominion of the planet Mars.


The Celtic 'Tree of Fertility'. Used during Mayday rites to symbolise love and betrothal.

Folklores and Myths

The Hawthorn Tree is said to represent true love, partnership and commitment, and the ancient Celts refered to the Hawthorn as "The Marriage Tree". Wands made from Hawthorn wood were thought to be very powerful and were often used in spells for love and marriage. The blossoms are also reputed to be highly erotic to men. The Hawthorn Tree was associated with May Day celebrations and was also known as the 'May Tree' or the 'Tree of Fertility'. It was symbolic of protection and often planted around homes and churches to form a protective shield.

Any site which grows both Hawthorn and its brother Blackthorn is thought to be an enchanted area. It was also a common practice to attach spriggs of Hawthorn to the cradles of newborn babies to protect against illness and evil spirits. It was once believed that to place a sprig of fairy hawthorn in your milking parlour would cause your cows to supply extra pints of creamier milk. In Medieval times, the start of summer was celebrated by a festival which included the erection of maypoles decorated with May blossoms. However, it was considered bad luck to take sprigs of hawthorn indoors as it signalled impending death in the household. It is now thought that this superstition may stem from the fact that chemicals released in the scent of the hawthorn are the same as those in decaying corpses - something people would have been used to around the time of the Great Plague.